Monday, April 5, 2021

21. Love Is Infinite, Only Humans Set Limits

Whenever I fly across the United States I look down at the land below in wonder.  All the mountains, lakes, and open fields that encompass the majority of this country are simply beautiful.  It reminds me that the land itself is without definition or boundaries --  it is human beings who have given it definitions, borders, quantification.  It is people who say, “this piece of land is New York, this segment of land is Pennsylvania,” and so on.  The land itself just exists, it’s just there.

I see love in very much the same way.  Love is abundant, it is ubiquitous, it is all around us if we allow it to be.  It provides great comfort, great connection, great warmth in its truest state.  Unfortunately, most people don’t understand how to give and receive love this way.  We live in a culture that teaches love has “shoulds” - that it should look a certain way, it should be defined by certain categories (like boyfriend, husband…) and it should meet your needs by “making” you feel valued, attractive, important.  Just like we separate land by randomly calling them “states,”  humans tend to randomly dichotimize loving connections into all-or-nothing relationships, which often ends up in "nothing", which subsequently fuels the epidemic of loneliness in this country. 

In my own life,  I’ve had no better guide for learning the true value of love and friendship than from Matt Cameron.

Matt and I met on May 12, 2004, while we were both still

living in Palm Springs, CA.  As I mentioned
in Lesson 27 I had spent most of my twenties chasing after men who were charismatic, yet deeply unbalanced and unhealthy.  By the time I met Matt I was 33-years-old, well on a journey of understanding self-love and God in a satisfying way.  Matt was 26-years-old, and also on his journey of learning how to be healthy, connected, and use his job as an Occupational Therapist to connect with his greater purpose.  I told him from the outset, “I am not looking for a boyfriend, husband, relationship, significant other… And I’m moving to New York next year.”  Matt accepted all of that.  The fact that he made space for me to be who I am, without judgement or “should”, made me want to know him better, trust him, change my mind about the boundaries I had initially placed, and ultimately move in with him in New York City.  

Matt and I became “boyfriends” and later legalized that into becoming Domestic Partners in New York in 2007 (this was before marriage was legal).  We were friends together, shared meals together, shared struggles together.  We had a great arrangement…until we didn’t.  

By 2010, Matt and I essentially had grown apart.  I know that’s a cliche term that people use but in my personal and professional life I have seen this is a common and valid event.  Think of it this way — when you have two different people, in their twenties and thirties, actively living life, exploring, evolving, learning lessons, having new experiences, they don’t always grow and expand in a way that compliment each other.  Many then stay together anyway out of sense of obligation, guilt, fear or "should".  After years of forced couplehood they tend to resent the hell out of each other, and extinguish all the good will and friendship that was there in the beginning.  I never wanted that to happen with Matt, and neither did he.  

By the time I turned 40, it was clear we were growing on very incompatible tracks.  But I still really loved him, I still really liked him, I still really admired him.  All the foundations of our friendship from seven years earlier were still there.  We got along well, we had a good time together, and I really liked his cooking.  It seemed foolish to throw away all the good parts just because were no longer together as a Couple.  So Matt and I took the road less traveled yet more sensible:  We actively nurtured our friendship.  We made time to catch up, talk, listen, and support one another on our personal and professional journeys.  We actively resisted the ego-based temptation to blame one another for what went “wrong,”, and instead constantly returned to a centered position of love and regard for the other.  

I can’t say this was always easy for me in the beginning, but I can say it proved to be a valuable and worthy exercise in prioritizing love over fear, gratitude over grievances, appreciation over acrimony.  Practicing these values proved advantageous as I started seeing more and more couples in my therapy practice who also had reached a natural plateau in their primary relationship, and were also looking for ways to let go with minimal conflict, resentments, and with improved respect and communication in their uncoupling process.

In 2015, Matt came to me and told me he had met someone who truly affected him, someone whom he felt connected to and caring from in a way he had never quite experienced before.  I didn’t know if Matt had really found someone in his life, or if he was just experiencing new-relationship-euphoria.  But when I met his new friend Richard for myself, I knew this was for real.  Richard is ebullient, smart, patient, giving, infinitely caring.  He offers abundant love and kindness to Matt in ways I never could.  

In 2017, Matt and Richard told me they had to have a serious talk with me.  Uh oh, I thought.  Are they sick? Moving away? Voting Republican? What could be so important?  

First they told me they had decided to legally get married now that we had the legal option to do so.  And then they asked me if I would officiate.  I was truly speechless aside from the one word I could muster, “YES!”  I was in tears when they honored me with this request, it is truly one of the most magnificent and humbling offerings I’ve ever received.  
Soon Matt and I will be celebrating seventeen years of knowing each other.  Never could I have imagined having a person to walk through life with on so many different paths, in so many directions, knowing each and every step of the way that this person has my back. To this day he is still my best friend, my medical emergency contact, my one phone call if I ever get arrested.

We live in a society that encourages us to categorize and quantify relationships as we do our state borders.   “Boyfriends on this side, friends on that side, potential husbands over here…” If someone doesn’t fit into a familiar category we tend to minimize the value they can bring.  In my world, love is abundant, friendship is plentiful, and connection is infinite.  If people force their feelings into definitions, emotions into checked boxes, exchanges into labels, then they miss out of the plethora of love, friendship, and great experiences that are infinitely available throughout the lifespan.   

I find that getting older allows me more opportunities to build “connections” with people versus traditional “relationships”.  I am constantly getting asked if I have a “boyfriend” now or “someone special” in my life.  The truth is I am abundantly grateful for the village of humans who nurture my wellness.  Some are focused in the emotional realm, some in the sexual realm, some in the professional realm, some in the spiritual realm, some a few of these at once.  But all reflect the happiness and gratitude I experience today, and my optimism of the future to come.  I have so many to thank for this, but Matt is first and foremost for showing me there are so many ways for us to be loving witnesses on this great adventure of life. 

 Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist helping individuals and couples enjoy life with peace, purpose, and pleasure. His books "Absolutely Should-less" and "Rational Relating" help people experience connection with joy, serenity, and meaning. His work has been featured on CNN Health, The New York Times, MSNBC, USA Today and more. He can be reached at or 347-227-7707. 

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